Theme: “The history of the Tower of London”
1.The Development of the Tower
3.The Medieval Tower
4.The Tower in Tudor Times
5.The Restoration and After
6.The Tower in the 19th Century
7.The 20th Century
The Tower of London
The History of the Tower of London
Fortress, Palace and Prison
This short history of the Tower of London charts the different stages of its development. Throughout its history, the Tower has attracted a number of important functions and its role as armoury, royal palace, prison and fortress is explained, as well as its modern role as tourist attraction and
home to a thriving community.
The development of the Tower
The Tower of London was begun in the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087) and remained unchanged for over a century. Then, between 1190 and 1285, the White Tower was encircled by two towered curtain walls and a great moat. The only important enlargement of the Tower after that time was the building of the Wharf in the 14th century. Today the medieval defences remain relatively unchanged.
WestmCastle building was an essential part of the Norman Conquest: when Duke William of Normandy invaded England in 1066 his first action after landing at Pevensey on 28 September had been to improvise a castle, and when he moved to Hastings two days later he built another. Over the next few years William and his supporters were engaged in building hundreds more, first to conquer, then subdue and finally to colonise the whole of England.
By the end of the Anglo-Saxon period London had become the most powerful city in England, with a rich port, a nearby royal palace and an important cathedral. It was via London that King Harold II (1066) and his army sped south to meet William, and to London which the defeated rabble of the English army returned from the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Securing the City was therefore of the utmost importance to William. His contemporary biographer William of Poitiers tells us that after receiving the submission of the English magnates at Little Berkhampstead, William sent an advance guard into London to construct a castle and prepare for his triumphal entry. He also tells us that, after his coronation in inster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, the new King withdrew to Barking (in Essex) while certain fortifications were completed in the city against the restlessness of the vast and fierce populace for he realised that it was of the
first importance to overawe the Londoners.
These fortifications may have included Baynards Castle built in the south-west angle of the City (near Blackfriars) and the castle of Monfichet (near Ludgate Circus) and almost certainly the future Tower of London. Initially the Tower had consisted of a modest enclosure built into the south-east corner of the Roman City walls, but by the late 1070s, with the initial completion of the White Tower, it had become the most fearsome of all. Nothing had been seen like it in England before. It was built by Norman masons and English (Anglo-Saxon) labour drafted in from the countryside, perhaps to the design of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester. It was intended to protect the river route from Danish attack, but also and more importantly to dominate the City physically and visually. It is difficult to appreciate today what an enormous impression the tower and other Norman buildings, such as St Pauls Cathedral (as rebuilt after 1086) or the nearby Westminster Hall (rebuilt after 1087) must have made on the native Londoners.
The White Tower was protected to the east and south by the old Roman city walls (a full height fragment can be seen just by Tower Hill Underground station), while the north and west sides were protected by ditches as much as 7.50m (25ft) wide and 3.40m (11ft) deep and an earthwork with a wooden wall on top. In the 12th century a fore-building (now demolished) was added to the south front of the White Tower to protect the entrance. The Wardrobe Tower, a fragment of which can be seen at the south-east corner of the building, was another early addition or rebuilding. From very early on the enclosure contained a number of timber buildings for residential and service use. It is not clear whether these included a royal residence but William the Conquerors immediate successors probably made use of the White Tower itself.
It is important for us today to remember that the functions of the Tower from the 1070s until the late 19th century were established by its Norman founders. The Tower was never primarily intended to protect London from external invasion, although, of course, it could have done so if necessary. Nor was it ever intended to be the principal residence of the kings and queens of England, though many did in fact spend periods of time there. Its primary function was always to provide a base for royal power in the City of London and a stronghold to which the Royal Family could retreat in times of civil disorder.
The Medieval Tower:
A refuge and a base for royal power
When Richard the Lionheart (1189-99) came to the throne he departed on a crusade to the Holy Land leaving his Chancellor, William Longchamp, Bishop of Ely, in charge of the kingdom. Longchamp soon embarked on an enlargement and strengthening of the Tower of London, the first of a series of building campaigns which by about 1350 had created the basic form of the great fortress that we know today. The justification for the vast expenditure and effort this involved was the political instability of the kingdom and the Crowns continuing need for an impregnable fortress in the City of London.
Longchamps works doubled the area covered by the fortress by digging a new and deeper ditch to the north and east and building sections of curtain wall, reinforced by a new tower (now known as the Bell Tower) at the south-west corner. The ditch was intended to flood naturally from the river, although this was not a success. These new defences were soon put to the test when the Kings brother, John, taking advantage of Richards captivity in Germany, challenged Longchamps authority and besieged him at the Tower. Lack of provisions forced Longchamp to surrender but the Towers defences had proved that they could resist attack.
The reign of the next king John (1199-1216) saw little new building work at the Tower, but the King made good use of the accommodation there. Like Longchamp, John had to cope with frequent opposition throughout his reign. Only a year after signing an agreement with his barons in 1215 (the Magna Carta) they were once more at loggerheads and Prince Louis of France had launched an invasion of England with the support of some of Johns leading barons. In the midst of his defence of the kingdom, John died of dysentery and his son, Henry III, was crowned.
With England at war with France, the start of King Henrys long reign (1216-72) could have hardly been less auspicious, but within seven months of his accession the French had been defeated at the battle of Lincoln and the business of securing the kingdom could begin. Reinforcement of the royal castles played a major role in this, and his work at the Tower of London was more extensive than anywhere other than at Windsor Castle. Henry III was only ten years old in 1216, but his regents began a major extension of the royal accommodation in the enclosure which formed the Inmost Ward as we know it today. The great hall and kitchen, dating from the previous century, were improved and two towers built on the waterfront, the Wakefield Tower as the Kings lodgings and the Lanthorn Tower (rebuilt in the 19th century), probably intended as the queens lodgings. A new wall was also built enclosing the west side of the Inmost Ward.
By the mid 1230s, Henry III had run into trouble with his barons and opposition flared up in both 1236 and in 1238. On both occasions the King fled to the Tower of London. But as he sheltered in the castle in March 1238 the weakness of the Tower must have been brought home to him; the defences to the eastern, western and northern sides consisted only of an empty moat, stretches of patched-up and strengthened Roman wall and a few lengths of wall built by Longchamp in the previous century. That year, therefore, saw the launch of Henrys most ambitious building programme at the Tower, the construction of a great new curtain wall round the east, north and west sides of the castle at a cost of over Ј5,000. The new wall doubled the area covered by the fortress, enclosing the neighbouring church of St Peter ad Vincula. It was surrounded by a moat, this time successfully flooded by a Flemish engineer, John Le Fosser. The wall was reinforced by nine new towers, the strongest at the corners (the Salt, Martin and Devereux). Of these all but two (the Flint and Brick) are much as originally built. This massive extension to the Tower was viewed with extreme suspicion and hostility by the people of Lon